The Hotel Utah Saloon

The Hotel Utah Saloon is reopening after an extended covid shutdown. See the contact page for the latest information on opening hours.

The Hotel Utah Saloon is a 100-plus-year-old San Francisco institution in the midst of a reinvented, reinvigorated SOMA neighborhood. We have 12 tap beers, a handful of select wines, and a full bar, accompanied by a full menu of fresh-made tasty food.

Our separate stage area features independent live music 7 nights, and some weekend days. Monday nights we host one of the longest-running, biggest and best open mics in town. The rest of the week is a variety of local and touring bands—check out acts you may know, or will want to know, in our intimate setting with our state-of-the-art sound system. Many weekend brunches are accompanied by free shows, from bluegrass and country to talented student showcases

This is an old place

It was built in 1908, when the Barbary Coast was still going strong. 1908, the year Bette Davis was born. The year of the first Model T. Twenty-eight years before the Bay Bridge. This bar was standing before, during, and after Prohibition.

The Deininger family opened the saloon, and commissioned furniture makers in Belgium to design and create its ornate bar-back. They also served the city’s best beer, Fredericksburg, brought to The Utah by horse and carriage and lowered into the cellar in wooden kegs.

A place with a sketchy past

Gamblers, thieves, ladies up to no good, politicians, hustlers, friends of opium, goldseekers, godseekers, charlatans, police, fancy miscreants — they all visited The Utah. And that was when South of Market was just a lonely section of the San Francisco waterfront.

After the Bay Bridge was finished in 1936, SOMA came into its own. The saloon (and the hotel upstairs) was home to longshoremen, merchants, metalsmiths, furniture makers, with traffic flowing back and forth between San Francisco and the East Bay.

And good stories

In the 1950s, Al Opatz presided over the saloon. Al didn’t like neckties. If someone wearing a tie got close enough, Al cut the tie off with scissors. His favorite way to greet someone was to offer them his hand and say “Shake the hand that shook the world.” His clientele were beat poets, gangsters, Marilyn Monroe, Joe DiMaggio, Bing Crosby, the cocktail generation. He eventually bought the bar in 1966 and renamed it Al’s Transbay Tavern. Al’s Transbay gets a mention in Coppola’s film, “The Conversation.”

In 1977, Paul Gaer, who co-wrote the story for the 1979 film “The Electric Horseman,” bought the bar from Al. He renamed it The Utah, and built a stage to support local music, experimental art, writers, comedy, and theater. Whoopi Goldberg, Robin Williams, and the Pickle Family Circus broke it in.

Stories that go on.

Hard to believe that after a century a place can still have the same personality. In the midst of a neighborhood that has reinvented itself so many times, the Hotel Utah Saloon still glows with the mahogany bar, serves real drinks and real food to all comers, and provides a welcoming stage for independent local and national acts.

The stories keep coming. Curious yarns with details we can’t go into. Come in sometime.